of us are drivers who prefer arcade racers, but we’ve always appreciated the
Forza series from a distance. But Turn 10’s Dan Greenawalt is convinced that this
is the racing game for us. “One of the things about is that it's not an arcade
racing game,” he says. “We think of it as an action racing game.”
Forza Horizon is an interesting hybrid. It carries certain
core elements of the Forza series--rewind functionality, the green
trackline--and weds them to a more forgiving, more daring driving style. It's a
game that lets you drive cars with a degree of permissiveness (compared to most
simulation-focused racers), in order to let you pull off far more outrageous
maneuvers that what's been seen in past Forza games. It's a game that, so far,
will feel immediately intuitive for those accustomed to slipstreaming behind
other ridge-racing sports cars and taking down the opposition.
Greenawalt provided us with a breakdown of the scope of FH's
shortened Colorado roads. There are sections that emulate the red hues of the
desert, and there are segments that evoke the high peaks of Vail. It's all
designed around the diverse roads of the Centennial State. It also touts a day/night
cycle, which ranges from the glowing rays of sunlight to the luminous laser beams
of a music festival that's brought hundreds of cars to race. While the in-depth
details are still not fully established, FH will support Kinect functionality
that lets you route your GPS for whatever activities you want to do on its
FH's backdrop--a truncated summertime in Colorado, with the music-driven,
car-centric Horizon Festival propelling the action--seems as interesting a backdrop
as the Burning Man-meets-death race setup that drove the first MotorStorm game.
It fosters an ambience that lends itself to copious amounts of licensed music. FH
will tout five hours of beats across three radio stations, all curated by
British DJ/producer Rob Da Bank, who also lent his expertise into the
authenticity of Horizon's music festival (apparently down to parking and the
location of Porta Potties).
With that, we jumped into the first 45 minutes of FH. It's
plot-driven, and the action starts, quite literally, with your nameless hero
hopping into his 1995 Volkswagen Corrado and furiously racing past other
"civilian" cars to stake out a spot in the Horizon Festival. It's a
solid introduction into FH's handling, which feels like it occupies a sweet
spot between Forza Motorsport's precision and the looser, more forgiving
handles of a Ridge Racer game.
FH looks to provide some entertaining race parameters. In
our first Horizon-sanctioned competition, we raced a Mustang against an
aircraft. As the plane looped around certain checkpoints, we hugged tight
rust-hued desert curves and followed the trusty Turn 10-designed green line of
stability. It's hard to tell if the plane was "rubber-banded" to keep
the race tight and intense, but we certainly felt a palpable relief as we hit
the finish line just shy of the aircraft. The early race also serves as an
introduction to vehicle inheritance. In the case of this Mustang race, we
unlocked the car as a new vehicle. You may not always want to abandon your
current ride for those fresh wheels, but it's nice to have the option.
We jumped into another race, and it was here that we began
toying with the difficulty settings. It's possible to win even more experience
points by turning off assisted settings. If you're inclined to rack up the XP,
you can adjust a number of variables, including transmission, opponent AI, and
anti-lock brakes. There are numerous tiers that will allow you to either
maximize or minimize your risk before jumping into a race.
Forza Horizon is a pleasant surprise.
Its vehicle handling feels immediately accessible, yet it can be tweaked for
extra doses of both challenge and reward. Its setting allows for a range of
visual diversity, from mountains to deserts, and it looks to fuse the trademark
tropes of Forza Motorsports' driving with the accessibility of more casual
friendly racers. With less than two months to its October launch, this looks
like a racer that's worthy of your attention.